“We’re probably the only team in the region that maybe has two good-sized post players,” Casey coach Todd Carman said.
Burton knows he doesn’t have to carry the load for the Rebels, who are still largely a guard-oriented team.
“I’m not going to be the peerson to go out there and give them wins,” he said. “I’m just doing what I can to help.”
With two regular-season games remaining, he ranks third on the team in scoring (8.8 points per game) and second in rebounds (7.4 per game), and he also has a team-high 18 blocked shots.
“I didn’t think that I’d be putting up anywhere near that,” Burton said. “I feel like I can do better now that I’m in basketball shape and I’m playing and I know the plays and everything. I feel like I can do better now, but at the beginning of the season I did not expect this.”
Todd Carman said he’s happy with the production Burton has provided.
“He works hard in practice and listens well,” the Casey coach said. “His transition has been smooth from football to basketball.”
Burton gave up basketball after his eighth-grade year, deciding to focus on the sport where he thought his future was brighter.
“I figured I’d just use my time to lift weights and get better at football,” he said.
He has been a force for the Casey football team, which enjoyed its best season ever last fall. He earned a spot on the All-Area defense after recording 96 tackles, 11 1/2 sacks and three fumble recoveries at defensive end, and he caught six passes for 123 yards at tight end.
He said he didn’t regret skipping two basketball seasons, but he did miss the game. He is playing with the blessing of Casey football coach Andy Stephens — ”he just doesn’t want me to get hurt” — and he said he is enjoying himself even though this has been a trying season for the Rebels, who have lost five straight games to fall to 6-19 going into Tuesday’s game with Boyle County.
“I get upset on the court, but as far as being out here playing, it’s been fun,” he said.
Carman, who also helps with the Casey football team on game nights, said Burton has brought some of the same aggression and emotion that he displays on the football field, and that doesn’t always work in the smaller surroundings of a gym.
“He’s just got to learn to keep his composure just a little bit more when things are not going his way,” Carman said. “There’s things you can holler out there on the (football) field that you can’t holler out here.
“But he’s still learning, and he’s done a great job for us.”
Burton said it took some time — “about two months” — to become comfortable on the court again after being away for so long.
“I wasn’t in very good shape, obviously, and I just didn’t have that basketball touch. It’s a different thing than football,” he said.
Burton said he is eager to get back in the weight room once the season ends. He has dropped about five pounds from his weight of 240 at the end of football season, and he wants to put that and more back on.
He said that’s the part of playing football that he dreads most, but there’s obviously a side of him that also enjoys it — or at least appreciates its importance.
“Actually, I can’t wait to get in there,” he said. “I go down there every now and then to watch the rest of the football team, and I’ll lift a few weights here and there, and I get excited.”
But Burton said he will also probably play basketball again next year, and Carman said he should be even more valuable with a season under his belt.
“Hopefully this summer he’ll be in there with us like he was this year, and next year you’ll see a little bit more,” Carman said.